I got on a train from Singapore and within 7 hours found myself in Kuala Lumpur. I barely had enough time to think about my first truly solo travel when I met a really great couple (German and Korean) who I was lucky enough to explore the city with.
- Deceptively smaller than you would think. Seems large on a map but everything is within 1-2 Km and walkable. I've got the fun kitchy pics with the Petronas tower (a must) and I must say, it is even more beautiful at night. They're surprisingly environmental friendly because they turn off all the lights at midnight - I found that impressive.
- It was odd to see Arabic everywhere (it was almost like being in the Middle East in some areas) and then learned that Malaysia is officially a Muslim country. One of the things I'm impressed with is the ethic and religious diversity of the region. When you're walking down the street you'll see a Hindu temple across from a Buddhist one, which is on the same block as a Mosque with a Church in the corner! How's that for an example of religious tolerance?!
- I did enjoy was the start of my culinary experience (and incidental weight gain) - We ate Chinese food in Chinatown and great Indian food in Little India. The Roti Canai here is legendary. It's the kind of roti that I've been dreaming off since Kuwait. It's always made fresh, is ridiculously cheap and is seriously good!
- Said to be the oldest rain forest in the world. I enjoyed a couple of massive hikes - which meant, after a hot and sweaty 5 hrs, we're just pretty happy that we weren't swarmed by leeches (almost disappointing, but not really) and most importantly didn't get lost.
- You'd think some jungle treks would be a good weight loss regime but then I discovered Mamak noodles - a wonderfully spicy, sweet and salty noodle dish topped with fried garlic, prawns and chicken. Oh and yellow pancakes/crepes - they put tumeric in it! Who'd have thought...yummy, although it looks kinda weird.
- Also took a scenic jaunt on apparently the longest canopy walkway above the forest.
- Unfortunately, there wasn't much in the way of seeing animals. No tigers or elephants, just some insects, scorpions, deer so I got out of the jungle and into cooler weather...
- After the oppressive heat, Cameron Highlands was a welcome refuge. It was soooo nice to actually wear a sweater and not have heat radiate from my body!!
- Up in the mountainous region of Central Malaysia, you're surrounded by strawberry farms, fresh produce and the beauty of lush tea plantations. It's rows and rows of tea bushes, green as far as the eyes can see. It's beautiful and peaceful but I've realized that I really don't have the palate for differentiating quality tea...Being a coffee drinker, I don't know much about tea, so it was interesting to learn about how it's grown, the process to make it and the different variables that make "good" tea. Incidentally, I was having a starbucks coffee during the tour...I know, terrible, but I really needed my caffeine fix! :)
- Mossy forest - beautiful and serene, the best part of the tour I went on was learning about the different wild plants that could potentially save me if I got lost in a forest. You can eat tips of a young fern plant, wild cinnamon grow as thick as branches (and fetch a lot on the black market) and ginger has a ridiculous amount of healing properties (one I didn't know, apparently great for hangovers!)
- Food wise, let's see - I discovered these fried banana balls that were delish and a great pre/post hike snack, had one of the largest, most varied 'steamboat' aka hotpot and introduced a bunch of Germans to the Southern Indian eating experience...murtabak and curry anyone?
- I had no expectations about the 2nd largest city in Malaysia, in fact I didn't really know very much about it. What I saw was an interesting combination of colonial buildings from it's British empire days, mixed with a few skyscrapers, resorts and old dilapidated buildings set in a port city/island. I'm glad I stayed an extra day with the scooter...I really enjoy feeling the air, sun, wind and (slight) rain on my skin while I get to look around and see vistas from all parts of Penang.
- I really enjoy seeing temples (maybe cause I'm just beginning this leg of it). I'm not sure if it's being in Asia that gives it a more "authentic" feel, or the Buddhist chants from the monks, or the feng shui of the large breezy space, or the usually immaculate gardens but there is a sense of peacefulness that comes to you when are visiting temples.
- Known as the food capital of Malaysia - there was no doubt that I was going to end up here! Some things that I've discovered:
- I think Malaysian food is now officially one of my favourites ever!
- I can never be vegetarian. I find it odd to order something, and only realize after 5 bites in, that it's not meat and 10 bites later figure out that I don't enjoy it.
- Too much of a good thing will make your stomach hurt (an odd feeling since usually I have the stomach of steel! Steel I say. Oh and yes, you will gain weight even if you're trekking everywhere.
- My spice tolerance is significantly lower...I sweat (even more) when I eat the food, after 5 minutes you'd think it'd stop...no, the burning sensation really doesn't.
- Even when you ask what is in the food or what it's made of and they answer in English, you still won't know what you ate.
- Food is stupid cheap here. I think the most I've paid is 20 Ringgits ($7) and that was sharing 5 dishes between 3 people or 3 dishes with fresh fish between 2 (with a drink)! On average, things cause about $1-3/meal!
So thanks Malaysia for the yummy goodness and now I'm off to Thailand to hopefully get back in better shape with some world class diving!